Hardyston makes ‘exhilarating’ return to full-time, in-person learning

Hardyston. The district is setting goals for next year that include continued collaboration with other districts, assessing students based on their learning styles instead of just test results, and helping students who have lost ground during the pandemic.

| 18 May 2021 | 03:50

The Hardyston schools recently combined cohorts for the first time, as the district moves toward the long-awaited switch to full-time, in-person learning.

The elementary school combined cohorts on April 26, two days after the area’s Covid-19 activity level changed back to yellow, indicating a lesser number of cases, said Mike Ryder, the district’s chief administrator.

That gave the middle school and high school the green light to copy the elementary school’s recommendations, in which students are arrayed three feet apart in classrooms instead of six feet. The middle school combined cohorts on May 10.

At the May 11 school board meeting, Ryder said 6.8% of elementary school students were still learning virtually, which he said is a really good — that is, low — number. At the middle school, 17.7% remained virtual, he said.

“It was awesome and exhilarating to see all the students back in the classrooms,” Ryder said. “What was once a normal-size classroom all of a sudden now seems huge with so many people in it.”

He said the district’s plan is to remove Wednesdays as the remote-learning day and revert to five days in-person learning, to begin districtwide the week of May 24 and remain in place for the rest of the year.

“This is great because we get to end this year as close to normal as possible,” Ryder said.

During lunch, the six-foot rule is still in place. Modifications have been made to make sure the schools follow those guidelines. Ryder was happy to report that he met with many teachers this year to listen to requests to move positions, or ideas that the teachers have to make their positions better, or other suggested ideas to think outside of the box next year on how to best help students.

The middle school will hold its eighth-grade graduation indoors on Thursday, June 17. The students are allowed to invite two guests. The ceremony will be livestreamed on YouTube. Ryder said the school has hired Gizzi Productions to do the livestreaming.

Ryder said he was happy to have met with many teachers this year, hearing their requests to move positions, and their ideas on how better to help students.

He said he was proud that the middle school was able to implement a track program this year by coordinating with neighboring districts and hosting meets at Wallkill Valley Regional High School.

He also discussed the district’s goals for next year (please see sidebar).

Hardyston will continue to collaborate with other schools, including Hamburg, Hardyston, Franklin, Ogdensburg, and Wallkill Valley, toward “a shared curricular vision.”
Harydston will look at learning styles, personalities, and the strengths and weaknesses of each student, instead of relying on test data. (The state’s spring tests were cancelled this year.) Hardyston will assess students at the beginning of the next school year to measure where they are. In a meeting on April 19, regional superintendents agreed to focus on helping students who lost ground during the pandemic.
Hardyston will develop a model for the consistent delivery of remote learning that is equal for all learners.
Educators, students, families, and community members will work together to support a healthy social emotional development for all students.
Staff will explore ways to support the district’s culture. The Hardyston Township Educational Association’s social committee came up with ideas to help relieve tension. “Sometimes it’s just as easy as having dress down days, feeling a little more comfortable and feeling a little bit more relaxed during the day goes long way,” said chief administrator Mike Ryder
“It was awesome and exhilarating to see all the students back in the classrooms. What was once a normal-size classroom all of a sudden now seems huge with so many people in it.” Mike Ryder